James is At The Beeb

It is always great to catch up with long term friends that you haven’t seen for a while, and regardless of the amount of time passed – you pick up where you left off. At my friend Sophie’s wedding I was pleased to catch up with my school friend Chris. Chris is a great guy who gives me much pleasure to talk about as he is definitely one of life’s good guys and he only needs to open his mouth and if you’re not careful you will wet your self with laughter. He often reminds me (without meaning to) of the importance of good bladder control.

Chris works for the BBC as a radio presenter for Radio 5 Live and can be regularly heard on his own Saturday show (Saturday Edition), or stepping in for other established presenters like Nicky Campbell or Victoria Derbyshire.

I am always pleased to hear about Chris’ career progression and as I have watched him on live webcam and listened into many shows I was able to ask him a few informed questions about his job. As he talked I realised that he could facilitate another mini-adventure (of sorts) and so I just came out with it and said “so how ’bout I sit in on one of your shows?”. ‘Seize the day’ as they say right?!?

Chris was very pleased to welcome me up to visit him at the BBC and was more than happy to show me what goes on. I agreed a date with him and on the Saturday after work I headed straight up there pleased to have a break from parental responsibilities for a weekend.

I arranged to meet Chris a couple of hours before his show started. He met me in the large glass paneled BBC reception which was decked out with a ballroom dancing theme, no doubt this was to promote the prime time Saturday night show ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ which had coincidentally started filming in a studio nearby a few moments before my arrival. I could hear the warm up guy going through the motions with the (over) excited audience.

Chris showed me around the Televison Centre which was interesting although he was quick to point out the failings of the centre and what the benefits were of the BBC moving to Salford. You could almost hear the building creek with age and the Broadcasting Corporation was visibly bursting at the seams. Time to move was possibly well over due.

The BBC Centre, other than studios and the exciting stuff, is just made up of three other components;

1. Staff – obvious really, someone has to turn the lights on/off.

2. PC’s – more screens than you can shake a stick at, seriously, there were enough computers to rival Houston’s Mission Control Centre.

3. Corridors – miles of walking space broken up by fire doors. Yep, if the staff liked to walk (and open doors) and walk, then they were working in the right place. Carrying a coffee any distance though must have been horrendous, add possible complications of carrying a Danish too – impossible!

Chris walked me through the Newsroom where the news comes in (funnily enough) and the TV studios which were mostly off limits due to ‘Strictly’ being filmed. We headed back to the radio studio where Chris continued his preparations for the show.

There is  an awful lot of work that Chris, the producer and the editor (plus other contributing regulars) put into making a show happen, and I was very pleased to meet two of the ‘regulars’; Helen and Olly who I have listened to their (Sony award winning) podcasts for some years (Answer Me This!). They do a  slot on Chris’ show giving a round up of all that has been going on in the world of the web over the week and review some of the interesting or slightly odd stories.

Despite being coy on my visit so far about getting my ‘proper’ camera out, I casually asked Olly for a photo and he casually agreed so I casually reached into my bag and not so casually gave it to Steve Fowler – the top journalist from Auto Express magazine (who does a slot about the top new cars and motoring news) and asked him to take a snap, which he did.

I watched the show from the production suite with the editor, sound desk lady and another guy that linked Chris up with the journos reporting news from the Ruby World Cup, Westminster (Liam Fox and Werrity story just breaking) and wherever else things were going on.

I was told that “what happens in the suite stays in the suite”, so I can’t tell you much more about what tricks are used to drive the engine of a BBC radio show but when I eventually felt brave enough I took a cheeky picture with my phone of what it looked like.

The show went smoothly and afterward the Editor held a short debrief meeting to gather thoughts and feedback.

As we collected our bags and pressed the button for the lift Chris gave me a smile and reached for his wallet, “I’m buying…..” Music to my ears! A couple of pints of Doom Bar, an exchange of stories and some Iraqi food was a great end to the evening.

Big thanks to Chris and his lovely Mrs for their hospitality over the weekend. You can follow Chris on Twitter; @chrisjwarburton or listen in to Radio 5 Live every Saturday from 8pm.

Have a look at Chris in action…!


Wishing you all the best in Salford – I’ll be listening!

About James G

It's a bit of this, and a little of that. Nothing fancy. You're welcome to it.
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